Melbourne Grand Prix cancelled as vaccine rollout stalls

The Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix and Australian MotoGP will not take place in 2021 due to a slower than forecast rollout of the Commonwealth vaccination program and subsequent caps to international traveller intake.

The MotoGP at Phillip Island had been scheduled for October 24 and the Albert Park Formula 1 race for November 21, but the sports’ governing bodies required assurances this week that the events could proceed.

Given the lower than expected vaccination rates and the impact of the National Cabinet decision, those assurances could not be provided within that time frame.

The Victorian Government said it understood the need for Formula 1 management and MotoGP controller Dorna Sports to confirm their schedules and the decision not to proceed in 2021 was mutually agreed with those bodies.

Planning will begin immediately for the return of the iconic international events in 2022.

The latest contract extension agreed with Formula 1 management means that the race will be held at Albert Park until at least 2025. The Australian MotoGP is contracted to Victoria until 2026 and has been held at the Phillip Island circuit since 1997.

“It’s very disappointing that these much-loved events can’t proceed but this is the reality of the pandemic,” said Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events Martin Pakula.

“But until we get much higher vaccination rates we cannot return to more normal settings.

“We are getting to work on plans for 2022 immediately and can’t wait to welcome the world’s best drivers and riders and all motorsport fans back to Albert Park and Phillip Island.”

Lobby group Save Victorian Events said it was saddened by the cancellation of the Grand Prix, which was one of 100,000 events lost over the last year.

“They are all important,” said Save Victorian Events spokesman Simon Thewlis.

“They all contribute to our communities, and to what makes Victoria a great place. And, they all provide much needed income for event industry people and businesses.”

But Thewlis said the government needs to widen its focus beyond major events and help the smaller events that make up the vast majority of the sector.

“In economic terms the ‘major events’ make up just 5 per cent of the over $12 billion event industry in Victoria, so we also need to think about the other 95 per cent of events,” he said.

“We need to be putting the time and effort into the many events that can be happening now and that provide the greatest overall benefit to communities and to the state.

“There are currently many unnecessary barriers to holding events in Victoria, so many events that could be safely happening today just aren’t happening.

“Most events are limited to just 300 people (at 1 person per 4sqm) with no roadmap for higher capacities, yet football games can happen with 25,000 people. It makes no sense.”

The lobby group has called for the establishment of a dedicated unit, Events Victoria, to help deliver a roadmap to recovery for the sector.